Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Our Elementary & Middle Grades Students Favorite Books

Reading is always important to us, and an activity we try to encourage our kids to do. We have all different levels of readers, and all different types of readers. Some prefer a quick and easy book, some prefer a more in depth chapter book, and some want to skip the reading and go straight to the Audible version. Either way we feel reading - no matter how you are doing it - is super important.


Now that we all find ourselves home a little more than normal (Okay, a lot more than normal. Thanks pandemic of 2020.), we've had way more downtime as a family to read. We know a lot of friends struggling to find things for their kids to read right now, so we asked our kids what their favorite books are.

Some of their choices we weren't shocked by, and some we were surprised about. Here are their current book recommendations.


ELEMENTARY GRADE READERS

  • Graphic Novels - Several of our kids went on a graphic novel kick for a while. Topping the list are the Dogman Series, Captain Underpants Series, and Babysitter's Club Series
  • Dragon Book Series - Written by the infamous author of the Captain Underpants Series, these Acorn books are excellent for early elementary school readers. They have short, quick chapters, colorful pictures, and that silly humor Pilkey is known for. 
  • Unicorn & Yeti Series -  Another Acorn chapter book series. Super fun, with short chapters designed for early elementary school readers. 
  • Princess in Black Series - Cross a princess with a super hero and you get Princess in Black. This is a new favorite we received at Christmas, but perfect for those who are just getting into chapter books. 

  • Notebook of Doom Series - A cute, fun not-so-horror story series for kids. Lots of pictures and easy chapters that make it fun for kids. Our kids have loved these. (Bonus: It has no potty talk!)
  • Ball Park Mysteries Series - If you have a sports loving little one these Ball Park Mysteries are perfect. Both our boys love these. Each story takes place in a famous ball park in the United States. 


Upper Elementary School Reading
  • Harry Potter Series - This is a no brainer classic that almost every child loves. We've been reading them and then watching the movie after. We also love this illustrated version that has pictures that kids can use to enjoy and aid their imagination. 
  • Wonder - A story of a special child and kindness! It was made into a movie, but read the book first. Definitely a story everyone should put on their list. 
  • Because of Mr. Terupt - This follows a group of students thrown together in a fifth grade class with a new teacher who teaches lessons just beyond the typical classroom subjects. The sequels  (Mr. Terupt Falls Again and Saving Mr. Terupt) are also great too! 
  • The One and Only Ivan - Told from the point of view of Ivan, a gorilla living in captivity in a mall for 27 years. Such a heart warming story and it was made into a movie! The sequel, The One and Only Bob, comes out in May! 


MIDDLE GRADE READERS

  • When - This story tops our Middle Schooler's list. It follows a young girl who has the unique ability to see people's death date on their forehead. The talent throws her into a police investigation in this fast paced read. 
  • 5 Feet Apart - For fans of The Fault in Our Stars. This heartwarming story follows two terminally ill teens who become friends, and have one wish - to be together. 
  • The Sun is Also a Star - Two teens on very different paths run into each other in NYC. Scientifically it makes no sense why they would fall in love - but some would say it was written in the stars. Such a beautiful book and it has a movie follow up for more entertainment. 
  • A Dog's Purpose - A heartwarming story about a dog's perspective on his humans. Another great one where a movie is available after the read. 
  • Percy Jackson Series - We read/listened to this series over the course of last Summer. It mixes humor, Greek Mythology, and action. Our kids loved it! (see review link below)
  • Artemis Fowl Series - Another great series to read now before the movie comes out in a few months. This one is action packed from start to finish.  A 12 year old millionaire super genius that just happens to be a criminal mastermind - what's not to love when you're in middle school? 


OTHER GREAT SUGGESTIONS

Here are a few posts from the past where we chatted about kids' book suggestions. We thought these might be helpful, or give you fun activities to help extend the reading.   


OTHER RESOURCES TO HELP

Here are a few other fun kid's reading sources that we have found that are a huge help in encouraging reading lately or are great places to get free or online books that your little ones can enjoy. 
  • Audible Kids- Amazon announced that Audible is doing a selection of free online audio books for the duration of everyone's quarantine. They work on a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone.
  • Open Library - A free online library of digital and audio books. You check out books and return them just like you do at your local library. 
  • Over Drive - Another free online library. 
  • Storyline - Books read to kids online by celebrities (our kids love this!). 

What are some of your kids favorite books? We would love to add some to our list! 

Also, if you know of any other great resources we should add to our list let us know. 


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Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday Favorites: Activities for Kids from Amazon

We made it to Friday!!!  Our first digital learning/quarantining/homeschooling/social distancing week is in the books.  How many more weeks will it be???  No one seems to know.

Our emotions have been all over the place this week.  Some days we feel like we are rocking this at-home thing and others we feel like we are going crazy! Overall, we tried to step back and appreciate the slower pace of life.  We can most definitely say we miss our friends, our sports, our schools, and our normal way of life. However, we're trying to stay positive and look on the bright side of things.  More family time, more down time, more connecting with each other and more opportunities to do the things we wouldn't normally be able to. 

Because we are sticking to our schedule as much as possible and trying to limit technology the best we can, the kids have spent a lot of time this week doing other things. We thought it would be fun to  share some of our favorites that are available on Amazon so you can order and have them delivered right to your front door! Have any favorites of your own?  PLEASE send them our way!!!  


1. Lettering and Modern Calligraphy - My 7th grader told me she wanted to learn how to do calligraphy during this time at home and I thought it was a great idea!  I found this instructional book to teach different lettering styles and it has a lot of practice pages, too! (Also see #7)

2. Dino Fossil Kit - I have shared this before as a great birthday gift idea, but thought it deserved mentioning again. My son loves these National Geographic digging kits and these will keep him busy all afternoon sometimes!

3. Coding and Robotics Kit - This can totally count as their STEM class, right? A fun activity that also keeps their brains working is a win-win!

4. Super Slime Lab - What kid doesn't love slime?  Most moms aren't fans, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Letting your little ones create and make some slime might just be worth it if it buys you a little me time!

5. Tie-Dye Kit - We LOVE to tie-dye in our house. We even had a tie-dye birthday party one year.  This is a fun way to spend an afternoon and actually something that will span a few days from start to finish so perfect for this time at home.  You can tie-dye t-shirts, pillow cases, towels, all sorts of things to keep you busy!

6. Flower Growing Kit - Going to be stuck at home for a few weeks? This kit is one that kids can check on each day and be able to see the flowers/plants grow over time! This one checks some of the science boxes!

7. Calligraphy Pens - This goes with #1.  A set of 12 calligraphy pens in a variety of colors can keep some of your tween girls busy and happy for hours!

8. Kanoodle Game- My kids LOVE this game.  We own a few of them and they always love challenging each other and themselves to solve the puzzles.  A great brain game and also something we like to take with us when we travel on planes or cars because of it's compact carrying case.

9. Rock Art Kit - Painting Rocks anyone?  This could be an art lesson and could extend a few days if you want to "hide" the rocks on a local hiking path, in a park, or even in your neighborhood.  Bring some joy to others who are social distancing during this time!

10. Battle Bots - Go head-to-head with your own remote control robots.  This one is great for multiple kids because they can challenge each other!

11. Zipline - My kids got this for Christmas and it is has been a favorite during our time stuck at home.  Outside time always involves someone zipping around and while it isn't cheap, the fun it provides is worth it!

12. Spy Kit - Anyone have a boy that likes to sneak around?  This spy kits gives them all sorts of tools they need to find finger prints, use invisible ink and special spy glasses to sneak around on every member of your family.

13. Plus Plus Building Toys - This will keep kids busy for countless hours. They can build, use their imagination and be creative with colorful interlocking blocks that can create a flat mosaic or 3D designs.

14. Origami Kit - Ever wanted to learn how to fold paper to create amazing objects? This step-by-step kit will teach the beginners how to make animals!

15. Marble Run Set - Multiple pieces allow your kids to build many different tracks and have marbles race to the end!  Put their little engineering brains to work while they are having fun.

16. Uno Card Game - A classic!  You might already have this, so it is a great time to pull it out. This colorful card game can be played with 2-10 players, so a great activity for the entire family!



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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Best At Home Work Out Resources (for Adults & Kids!)

Whew! Well this week has been a doozy. We are pretty sure if you asked us a few weeks ago if we thought kids would be out of school for weeks (months?) on end, businesses would close down, grocery stores would resemble something from the Hunger Games, and toilet paper would be the hottest commodity of 2020, we would have laughed and laughed at you.

But, thanks to Coronavirus-pacalypse times have a changed.

We have tried to keep the very best attitude about it all. And for the most part we have succeeded. Luckily, our kids seem pretty ignorant to what is going on in the world, and their concerns are mostly limited to...

"Why am I home, and still have to do work?"

"Why can't I play with my friends?"

"Why can't I go to Target/Starbucks/soccer/cheer/Taco Restaurant?"

and, my personal favorite, "What do you mean I can't have another snack?!!!!"

Carrie Beth shared on Monday her homeschool daily schedule, and we realized having some sort of routine is what is going to make us all survive this Coronavirus Quarantine party none of us wanted the invite to. But remembering to also throw in a little self-care into the mix for our mental health is also a great idea.

We have some great suggestions from Book Club for reading, but with our gyms now closed as well, we did some research on great at-home work outs. Here are some great ones we found for the whole family. Some we've already given a try - and love!

(And since we are already wearing our sweat pants all day every day, it can't hurt to throw in 20 mins of exercise a day, right?)



  • Peloton App - Free for 90 days! Okay, we thought this was just to use with a Peloton bike. It's not. It has tons of great workouts - yoga, strength training, running, etc. 
  • Pure Barre Go - Free 30-45min workouts streamed  Live on Facebook (but can watch/participate anytime). No equipment needed. 
  • Zumba for Kids - Free Zumba mini-lessons geared towards kids, but great cardio moves for adults too. We did this together and it was so fun! 
  • Bulldog Online - Free yoga classes for 60 days with code EXTEND60. 
  • Fitness Blender on YouTube - Free and SO GOOD! This was a reader suggestion, and we can't believe it wasn't in our life before now. Hundreds of videos for all skill levels as well as time frames. There is a fun kids workout available too! 
  • Blogilates - Free! Great pilates workouts ranging in short and long workouts. Super fun, and easy to do from home. 
  • Core Power Yoga - Free yoga workouts. 
  • Maggie Brinkley Workouts - 15 minute, equipment free workouts. Free on Amazon Prime video if a member or sign-up for a 30-day free trial. Also there are rent/purchase options as well. 
  • Beach Body on Demand - This was a reader suggestion. 1,100+ videos to choose from, but with monthly membership. 
  • GymPass - Free for 60 days. Beyond workouts they have meal plans and mental health support. 
  • Go Noodle for Kids - Great free movement classes for kids! Our school uses these for "brain breaks", but the kids have loved doing them at home. 

We would love more suggestions! If there are any that you do at-home and love, share with us! We will update this list as we find and try more! 

Stay healthy friends! 




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Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus Daily Schedule for Kids

This past week has been a whirlwind.  It is honestly hard to even wrap my head around all that has happened and changed with the new developments about Coronavirus.

Last week I began getting emails from just about everyone regarding their new policies with regards to the virus and what measures they were taking to keep everyone safe and healthy.  Anything from my pediatrician's office to the place my son gets his hair cut to Old Navy.  Yep, even Old Navy sent me an email about it.  Honestly, that one just made me laugh.

On Wednesday I had stocked up on groceries for the Mr. and younger two kids because I was set to head to Orlando on Thursday for a cheer competition at Disney World. With all of the growing concerns about the spread of this virus we were notified on Wednesday that our gym was still going.  Thursday morning we had another email saying the gym had pulled all of the teams from the competition and that was the news I got to wake my daughter up with.

"Good morning, honey...instead of going to Disney with your friends and teammates to compete, you get to go to school."

She was crushed, mad, disappointed, confused, and annoyed about life at the moment, but I knew it was the right decision.  Later that day our schools were cancelled, baseball was cancelled, soccer was cancelled, basically our entire life was put on hold.

The reality started to sink in a little bit and we all tried to make sense of what this was going to mean for us.  "Digital learning" is the new catch phrase as far as their schooling goes and that is one of the biggest unknowns.  They all went to school on Friday to get final assignments, directions, and guidance for how to navigate these next few weeks and I have a feeling the majority of my day is going to be helping each of my 3 with their online work and assignments.  Just the logistics of logging into different programs, who gets to use the laptop, who is going to work where, etc. has me a little nervous, but we are going to make it work!  I've set up a small workstation for each of them in different parts of the house so they can hopefully concentrate and focus during their digital learning times.

I know my kids view this as a "break" from school, but I have a feeling that they are all going to be eager and begging to go back to school as soon as they can. That is the hard part though. We have NO IDEA when they will be heading back.  Just like schools all over the country, we would hope to go back in 2 weeks, but my guess is the likelihood of that actually happening is very slim.  I've read articles and reports with recommendations that could have us out the rest of the year.  I'm praying that isn't the case, but if it is, we better get used to this new normal.

I'm obviously no expert, but thought I would share what I'm going to be doing to try to keep my kids entertained, engaged and off of their phones/ipads all day long.  I think one of the biggest things to help us all get through these next few weeks is to create a schedule.  I have to admit this made me laugh though:

There have been a ton of these ideas floating around.  Some seem great if you could really make them happen:



Others that I'm sure my kids were hoping for:


My guess is ours will end up somewhere in-between those two. I know ours will be flexible and we will probably have to adjust what we do by the end of the week, but at least it gives us a starting point.  My kids are 8, 10 and 12 and my goal is for them to have an idea of what our days at home will look like while still keeping a little structure. This is the one I made and what I'm aiming for:


Sports play a HUGE part of my kids' lives so along with keeping their school going I also hope to keep their sports going.  I figure if I can be their teacher while they are at home I can also be their coach! We will be practicing drills, hitting off the tee, stretching, throwing, juggling, tumbling, conditioning and anything else we can think of. I can't imagine them going back to school having done nothing over these next few weeks and I feel the same about them going back to their sports having done nothing.

I also wanted to share a few ideas that the kids and I came up with for ways to stay entertained while they aren't working on their school work or sports practices. We're going to keep adding to this list as we think of new ideas!

make bead bracelets
science kits
learn calligraphy
learn to sew
clean out their closets
organize playroom
clean out old toys/books
chores to earn money
watch movies
silly string
jump on trampoline
paint
learn to do laundry
baking
family walks

How are you planning to survive these next few weeks (or longer) at home with your kids???


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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Home Sweet NEW Home: Before the Renovations


Yesterday I shared the news that we are moving, and today I'm going to give you a little peek at the house. This is the house before we began renovations. For the record, it is a gorgeous home. Could we have moved into it right away and been fine? Absolutely. 


The home is a custom build from the early 2000's, and the home owners did do a fair amount of updating to it over the years. It is also an eerily similar layout to what our current home has now. That made it easier for us to say, "Yes!". 


Because we already knew how things from our current home would fit, it made it much easier for us to envision ourselves in the space, as well as what we could do to each space. Basically, we are taking what we've done to our current home and replicating it here. 


The previous owners actually did a major renovation to the main floor of their house including a kitchen update only a few years ago. It has a ton of fancy features added to it. Features that I have absolutely no idea how to use. Those who know me personally know that that oven (any oven) is just for show. 


But the cabinets...let's just say that they make my inner OCD extremely giddy. 


When I say it needed work, most of the main two floors of the house really only needed cosmetic updates. Paint, a little bit of dry wall repair, and some flooring replacement were all that were originally on our list. The bathrooms were really the only spaces that needed updating. But again, we could have lived with them too. 


The garage for awhile was our biggest sticking point. We knew we needed a different layout that what the house came with. The garage was too small for either of our cars to fit. My SUV barely fit on one side if we left the door open, and Mr. Magnolia's truck...not a chance. Throw in kids toys and lawn equipment...we knew it wasn't going to happen. The garage would just end up being a storage space and that was feasible long term. 


Originally the owners were going to build a garage because they were running into the same problem, but then they decided they wanted to build a house for the next stage of life now that they are empty nesters. So they gifted us their architectural drawings. We went back and forth (a million times!) on what to do. We asked friends, family, and contractors their opinions. We came up with multiple different scenarios, but ultimately landed on the fact that what they had planned made the most sense. So stay tuned because that is probably the biggest change coming to the house over all! 


The basement is probably our second biggest change. This is where most of the "quirky" came in. I'll share more on this later (because trust me it's a much longer post), but here's a quick peek at some of the basement before we began renovations.




 The outdoor space is what drew us to the home originally, and to date it's still our favorite thing about the house. As much as I will miss my current home, seeing the joy on my kids faces each time they run through the yard, play in the woods, or hit a baseball ball without having to worry about smashing a car or window reassures me we made the right decision I think. There is no doubt they will spend countless hours making memories outside. 




And now you see why my kids were all like, "Mom, quit crying tears over the first piece of hardwood flooring you stepped on when you brought us home from the hospital, put a for sale sign up, and get me a pool float." 

The previous home owners own a pool and landscape design company. So the property has a lot of fun perks. And pretty flowers that I have no idea how to take care of, and have a crazy feeling have already lived their best life. #blackthumb


I'll do a renovation update post soon to show progress. I'm not sure if I will do one big one or room by room. Thoughts? 

The kids have been troopers all Winter, and now that we are getting close to the end we are all excited to move into our new space!  



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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Home Sweet NEW Home

This post is a bittersweet one for me to write. I'm going to go ahead and get the "big news" out of the way, and then share a little back story.

We're moving.


Not far, and nothing really changes here (except you're about to get a crazy amount of home decor posts coming your way). But, for our little family this was a decision that's been in the background of our lives for the last six months. The official move date is getting closer and closer, so it was time to bring you guys into the loop.

THE BACK STORY

First, I love my current home. Like L-O-V-E love. After ten years living here, I finally felt like we put our touches on every single space and made it our own. We renovated the kitchen last year, and it just felt complete.


And then Mr. Magnolia wanted to move. 

For over a year prior to the renovation he had been scouring Zillow. Hourly Daily he was sending me listings to look at. Like so many I even went as far as to try to block them from my email. He would just re-sign me up. 

I thought the kitchen renovation would put all that in the back of his mind. It didn't.


He loves our home too. But he also disliked certain things about it.


I'm the more sentimental one. This was our first home we purchased together. We brought all three of our babies home to this little corner of the world. We've had so many memories here, made so many friends, and it's in the perfect location to get to many places pretty easily (that's saying a lot with Atlanta traffic).


There were a few that sparked my interest, and one in particular I felt like was "perfect" if we were to move. We looked at it at least six times. It had been on the market for almost a year. We decided to make an offer. And then it sold.


I took it as a sign to stay in our current home. Mr. Magnolia took it as a sign to up his Zillow searching. 

We came around to the idea that if we were going to move, that we would just find a lot and build a home on it. 

Then last August we found this home.


At first sight we fell in love with the yard. But then I walked into the home, and I instantly rejected it. It needed some (read: a lot) of renovation. There were just some quirky things the owners had done that we would have to go back in and fix. If this was to be our forever home there would also need to be one big adjustment to the layout of one part of the house, in addition to just some basic updating. 

I didn't want to tackle that. We had been living in that on and off for ten years. While I am here for home projects - and think they are super fun! - this was like top to bottom major renovation. I did not want to live in that with three young children. 

We looked at it a second time and weighed all the pros and cons. To be honest, from me there were a lot more cons. It was further away work and the airport. The kids would have to change schools. We'd have to find new doctors/dentists/health care professionals. The convenience of location would be gone. How the heck would we sell a house/keep it clean while in the middle of the chaos of school/after school activities/work, etc.? How will the kids feel???


For the record... the kids took one look at the outdoor space and said, "YES!". They were no help.

We sat on it for a week, and then decided to put in a low-ish offer. If it worked out, it worked out. If not...that was our sign. 

Surprisingly, they accepted the offer. And then made it even better. It was un-heard of. So much so that we kept wondering if the house was built on some sort of graveyard or something that we didn't know about. 

It's not. 

But we took it as a sign, and now...



Now five months later we're knee deep in renovations, and are about to put our current home up for sale.


Tomorrow I'll give you guys the "before" tour, and a little peek at what the house looked like before renovations began. 





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Thursday, March 5, 2020

A Supercross Saturday

(Photo courtesy of Brave PR and Supercross Live)

We just can't get enough of these Monster Energy Motorsports lately. Last weekend we attended Monster Jam for a Mother/Son date night with Carrie Beth, and this weekend we headed back to the Benz for Supercross Live.


Our morning was filled with kids sports and cheer competitions, but by early evening we were settled into our seats to cheer on the riders in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. The kids had no clue what to expect having never seen a Supercross Live event before, but they quickly became excited.


Live music pumped through the arena via a DJ, and the large dirt filled course center stage had the kids in awe. Right from warm-ups they were cheering right along with the rest of the crowd, so impressed with the riders and their abilities on two wheels.

(Photo courtesy of Brave PR and Supercross Live)


It didn't hurt to see how high in the air the riders go, along with the occasional crash to keep their attention. It made me nervous every single time one of the riders would go in the air. But really it was the sandy, bumpy portion of the track or the tight turns that were most of the riders undoing.


The kids also loved seeing the amateur round where 7 to 9 year olds race. We couldn't believe they did the entire course the veteran riders raced on. Seeing those tiny ones go up the large hills or bumps on their bikes made the crowds cheer even louder than they did for the professionals. It was quite impressive. And now my kids all want to enter next year.


Between the racing and the constant flow up snacks, I'm pretty sure my kids thought that Supercross ranked right up there with Disneyland. They had a blast from start to finish!



Supercross Live is such a great fun family event. We know we will make an effort to attend it again when it comes back to Atlanta again. I highly recommend it if you are looking to do something fun and exciting with your family.


There are still plenty of dates left on the tour, and tons of races around the country to see before the season is over. To see if there is a Supercross Live event in your area and get tickets visit their website or follow along for info on Facebook and Instagram.



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